Savannakhet authorities successfully intercepted a red and white bus full of Siamese rosewood logs on 5 February potentially to be smuggled to Vietnam.
The interception occurred midway on the outskirts of the province in Phin district, as Savannakhet authorities spotted the suspicious bus. Covered with tarps and boxes at the front, the logs were skillfully hidden inside the vehicle.
The exact destination of the logs remains unclear, but speculations on social media suggest a possible route to Vietnam, given that the bus runs between Savannakhet and the Vietnamese provinces of Hue and Danang.
It is still unclear what kind of punishment the smugglers will face. However, the law stipulates stringent penalties for such activities.
According to the Lao Penal Code, individuals convicted of illegally transporting or smuggling woods may face imprisonment ranging from three months to three years. Additionally, they may incur fines ranging from LAK 100,000 to LAK 5 million.
In cases involving the use of force, weapons, or other aggravating factors, penalties may escalate to three to five years imprisonment and fines ranging from LAK 2 million to 7 million.
Siamese rosewood, a protected wood species, has been a target for illegal logging in Laos for more than two decades due to its high value. The incident has reignited the ongoing challenges in curbing illegal timber trade, especially across borders.
Since 1999, Laos requires all timber to be processed within the country. Unfinished wood products, like logs and sawn timber, cannot be exported. However, enforcing this policy has been challenging because many processing facilities in Laos do not have enough wood. The ban on exporting logs does not apply to plantation timbers
The interception aligns with recent efforts by the Lao government to address rampant forest crimes, as highlighted in the leaked report exposing systematic illegal logging and timber smuggling back in 2015. The report revealed alarming statistics regarding illegal logging and timber trade in Laos. According to the findings, Laos exported a staggering 1.4 million cubic meters of timber to Vietnam and China in 2013, which is over ten times the country’s official harvest. This discrepancy points to widespread illegal logging activities within the nation.